The Wood Buffalo Municipality

The Wood Buffalo Municipality

The Fort McMurray Waterfront Program of 2012 is a combination of the Wood Buffalo Municipal planning projects with public and community consultations to shape and create the development for the City Centre Area. The vision for the Waterfront Program has been “to provide a series of design principles, site programming options, and actions that will create a vibrant, safe and comfortable public open space for year-round enjoyment along our City’s waterfront.”

The Program is a comprehensive, well-thought and planned document that conjures up the  “thoughtful, intentional preservation and reinterpretation of “place”.”

The Key Plan of the Program fully describes the parks and gardens running the course of the waterfront to includeSyne Park, Clearwater Promenade, The Gardens, The Prairie, Waterways Park and Horse Pasture Park.

Snye Park activities include Winter Play – ice-skating, the Elegant Bridge and Snye Promenade and for the summertime – the Beach on the Snye; a naturalized shoreline and spot for sunset viewing. Clearwater has a Promenade, and a designated area called Earthworks. The Gardens boast a non-motorized boat dock and launch, community orchard and garden as well as Promenade. The Historic Wharf is part of the Prairie section, plus an area of restored habitat and river access; while Waterways Park offers a natural play area and ice-skating. Finally, Horse Pasture Park holds the Celebration Pavilion and dog park.

All seasons are considered with the functionality and design of the parks drawing residents outdoors to commune in an inviting natural environment and enjoy community events and programming.  Winter celebration in public spaces finds illuminated structures, lantern installation, holiday festivals, lighted trees and light art installations. Winter programs include WinterPlay Festival, the Shoot-Out on the Snye, Festival of Lights, community bonfire, ice-skating events and ice sculpture festival and competition. Summer programs include farmer’s markets, arts and crafts fairs, gallery displays, outdoor events and performances, floating stages, athletic and water sports events as well as fitness classes. Facilities in the summer cater to children with a play area, picnic pavilion, picnicking, sunbathing, retail kiosks, sunset viewing from the beach, rowing, kayaking, and a mountain bike skills course.

The Wood Buffalo Municipality has created a plan with admirable virtues of the principles behind the Program which include: a high level of sustainable design in energy and water use, stormwater management, light pollution control, habitat preservation, pedestrian and cycling access and accessibility to public transit. They have prioritized environmental sensitivity in keeping it natural. Xeriscape is the terminology used for sustainable landscapes requiring little care and maintenance. Education is key in creating a sense of stewardship in the support, promotion, growth and diversity of the community, particularly towards the national heritage Clearwater River.

Clearly functionality and design blend on purpose in the elements of infrastructure, energy, water and waste utilities, shelter, security, event areas and communications. Safety elements consist of emergency call station kiosks; secure bike parking, lighted pedestrian corridors and clean and well-maintained amenities.

Local artists are encouraged to contribute their art in durable, easy-to-maintain materials for use and admiration of the public and enhancement of specific locales in the form of aboriginal public art, designed transit shelters and streetscape lighting; street furniture, bike racks, guardrails and pavilions.

Ultimately the Fort McMurray Waterfront Program is a blueprint for cities large and small to emulate. With a strong desire to preserve natural settings and a continuous path along the water’s edge, easy access to downtown with memorable areas, pedestrian and cycling paths – the community gets to live, work and enjoy year-round recreational activities. Enhancing the benefits of the Clearwater River and the Snye that graces Fort McMurray from three directions is supporting a good quality of life. The Wood Buffalo Municipality model is the “Showcase for strategic planning and design; pillars of sustainability – Economy, Culture, Society and Environment.”

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